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Anthony Joshua could vacate WBO title, won’t go to purse bid with Oleksandr Usyk

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AJ and team aren’t looking to drag out negotiations, and vacating a belt is a possibility.

British boxer Anthony Joshua wins back his world heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

If Anthony Joshua’s ordered fight with Oleksandr Usyk can’t get done without much trouble, it might not happen at all.

Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn told media this weekend that he won’t be taking Joshua-Usyk to a purse bid, and that the option to vacate the WBO title is on the table.

“We’ll either make a deal or we’ll vacate. I mean, we won’t be going to purse bids or anything like that, and mucking around. ... I’m not annoyed with the WBO. I’m just annoyed that it seems that basically AJ is told who he’s got to fight every single time. But that’s the problem of having three or four belts. That’s just how it is.”

This is a more dsort of statement from Hearn than a lot of stuff on these topics in recent years. Maybe he’s given up on ever getting AJ into an undisputed fight after the five-month mess with Tyson Fury, and the annoyance of the mandatory obligations has gotten to him or even to Joshua.

The only bigger fight Joshua (24-1, 22 KO) can make other than Usyk (18-0, 13 KO) right now would be a rematch with Dillian Whyte, and if Hearn crunches the likely numbers and sees it’s truly bigger, that might be the direction they go. Joshua beat Whyte (28-2, 19 KO) back in 2015, before AJ won his first world title, and the rematch idea has been in the air since then, really.

But this isn’t to say Joshua and Usyk won’t just get a deal done and get on with the fight. If the sides can agree on the right money, it figures to still happen. Hearn has said many times that AJ doesn’t want to vacate belts, that he’s proud of holding all of them, but in all honesty you can certainly understand if frustration combined with a possibly tough negotiation getting to AJ’s team.

This statement does open the door for Usyk’s team to be purposely difficult and see if they can’t force Joshua to vacate, which would probably open an order for Usyk to fight Joe Joyce for the vacant title. Usyk and Joyce were expected to fight for the interim belt when Fury-Joshua was expected to actually happen.